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Ohio: Dennis Kucinich, Marcy Kaptur Square Off in Testy Debate

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

CLEVELAND — Rep. Dennis Kucinich often refers to Rep. Marcy Kaptur as his friend on the campaign trail, but the Democratic duo appeared to be anything but comrades in their first debate.

In the hourlong back-and-forth this morning, Kucinich was forced to defend his flirtation with running for a new House seat in Washington state, including multiple visits to the West Coast for speeches and events.

“At no time, did I ever state I was leaving the area,” Kucinich responded. “I’ve never said that, and any claim to the contrary is fictional.”

The two veteran Democrats are facing off in the March 6 primary after the GOP-controlled state Legislature drew them together in the 9th district, which spans more than 120 miles along Lake Erie from Cleveland to Toledo. Ohio lost two House seats this year following reapportionment.

The two Members, plus political newcomer Graham Veysey, sparred in a series of testy exchanges over local transportation projects, controversial social issues, and national fiscal matters in the Time Warner Cable studios next to Lake Erie’s shoreline downtown. The candidates have appeared together before, but this debate marked the first time all three Democrats participated in a public, back-and-forth dialogue ahead of the primary.

Democrats participated in a public, back-and-forth dialogue ahead of the primary.

At multiple times during the debate, Kaptur and Kucinich interrupted each other, interjecting with terse phrases including, “Oh, I beg your pardon” and “You said your piece.” In one particularly testy exchange, the two Democratic Members argued over funding for an unfinished bridge in Cleveland.

“Is there money there to spend right now for the inner-belt bridge, Congressman?” Kaptur interrupted. “I sit on the [Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation], I know Mr. LaTourette very well, and there are many times we’ve provided funding for northern Ohio.”

“Are you saying this is a fake-out? Will you help us get the money for the bridge?” Kucnich responded. “We didn’t say we had” the money.

When asked about their favorite national Republican, Kaptur extolled longtime Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), Kucinich praised Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), and Veysey mentioned former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.).

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